Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett Image

Professor Bennett taught Communication Arts and supervised the theatre Program for 30 years at Eastern College/University in St. Davids, PA (USA). His first published play ("God is My Fuhrer") examined the turbulent life of Martin Niemoeller, one of the heroic figures in Nazi Germany. Since then he has published many one-act plays with both secular and church-related publishers, and three books on church-related theatre.

Off-stage, Bennett has a passion for peace and justice issues, and he has written many op-eds, parables and plays on political affairs. In 1987 he published a book on the emergence of Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones, The New Abolitionists, which was translated into Japanese.

The author has an AB from Dickinson College (psychology), an M.Div. from the American Baptist Seminary of the West, as well as an MA in Communication Studies from Temple University. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Coatesville, PA.

Although not a French scholar Bennett has had a long love-affair with Moliere. He first wrote 'GOD OF LAUGHTER" as a stage play which has been performed at the university level. In 2003 God of Laughter won first prize in a national competition for full-length plays sponsored by Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA). Public readings have been given at professional theatres in the Philadelphia area.

Bennett has taken courses in both stage and screen writing at Temple and Villanova Universities. At Villanova he teamed up with Professor Stephen McWilliams to co-write a motion picture version of God of Laughter, which has not yet found a producer.

Here the author describes how he "discovered" Moliere and got hooked on his captivating sagA, 'GOD OF LAUGHTER':

"I was taking a course in "Theatre Styles" at Temple University when Moliere first caught my fancy. Unlike Shakespeare, his plays in translation were very readable, and his comedy was delightfully satirical—and I had enjoyed writing plays to satirize my own society. The irony of his death—a man who was seriously ill playing the role of a character who only thought he was ill--was incredibly ironic. So I started with his death (the night he played Argan in the fourth performance of "The Imaginary Invalid"). I then worked backwards, found the real historical and theatrical starting point for the story, then worked forward from there.

"I began with Moliere's debut on the Paris stage in 1658, together with his longtime lover, Madeleine Bejart and others in her family's "Illustrious Theatre." As one compelling scene led to another, I became convinced that I had stumbled on a life well worth examining on stage. Readers' comments encouraged me: ‘Having directed 4 Moliere's myself…I was fascinated with your play. You captured the spirit and essence marvelously,' from Prof. Blair Anderson, Wayne State University Theatre. And Prof. Leslie Reidel at U-Del wrote that the play "cleverly takes the audience on a journey into the world of 17th century French theatre and its greatest playwright, Moliere. The characters are well-drawn, the plotting engaging, and the humor well-timed and plentiful. It would be a fine companion piece to a Moliere play in a season, but could easily stand on its own.'

"GOD OF LAUGHTER" is not, strictly speaking, a biographical play but, rather, an epic drama. Drama is always, in essence if not in form, a work of fiction.Although it is based on extensive research and, I hope, true to the temperament of Moliere and the temper of the times, I have resorted to some "poetic license," an old saw that simply means using your imagination. The characters and plot are anchored in fact, but one must often sacrifice some historicity to create an engaging story for the stage."

Bennett's second play for Heartland is 'MY NAME IS OSSIAN SWEET," a docu-drama based on a riveting story, a civil rights event that occured in Detroit 1925. The play dramatizes the inspiring tale of an African-American family who boldly bought a house in an all-white neighbrhood in a city rife with members of the KKK, and where housing was rigidly segregated. In the story the Sweet family, led by a skilled black physician, moves into their home on Garland Avenue only to be laid seige by hostile neighbors. Pandemonium ensues, shots are fired, and the entire Sweet family is arrested and charged with the murder of a white man on the street. The NAACP asks the eminent defense attorney Clarence Darrow to anchor the defense team, and over the course of two trials his eloquent defense results in a hung jury, and then an acquittal. The first trial takes up the whole of ACT II. Previously, in ACT I, the author traces the odyssey that brought Ossian Sweet to Detroit from his original home is rural Florida.

The drama is embellished with some old Negro spirituals dating from pre-Civil War days and sung by Ossian Sweet's mother, Dora. So Bennett has used music to highlight certain action and moods at different points in the drama; also, he suggests using a variety of projected images on a screen or backdrop to help establish the melieu for the various scenes, which are played on a bare stage with very little scenery. The total effect is captivating and the results of the trials mark a watershed moment in the history of civil rights in America.

The play had its debut performance at the Community Players in Reading, PA, during February 2012, to highlight Black History Month, but it is a play for all seasons.

Mr. Bennett has recently collaborated on an unpublished comedy with a former student, Dana A. Priest. Titled 'TARTUFFE--AND ALL THAT JAZZ" this comedy is an new adaptation of Moliere's "Tartuffe," now set in St. Louis, 1927. It retains Moliere's original characters but adds a few more, in keeping with a different, livelier scenario. The Jazz Age and Prohibition figure into the story of the religious hypocrite and con man, Tartuffe, who almost--but not quite--manages to steal his host's house and home! The ending is hilarious and the total play, by the way, is written in rhymed verse compatible with Moliere' style.

Contact Gordon Bennett at 610-466-0693 or by e-mail at to see a draft of this amusing work.

Author's Plays